22 April 2013, 11:01

Russians to quiz Putin about taxes, scholarships, Navalny and Serdyukov

Путин
Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin

Tax hikes, student allowances, childcare benefits, unchecked migration and the fate of opposition blogger Alexei Navalny are among hot topics that Russians are hoping to raise during the upcoming televised conference featuring President Vladimir Putin on April 25.

Messages have been streaming in from all across Russia. They are gathered at a special call center and on the official website that has also unveiled the most frequently asked questions, most of them addressing immediate social needs and concerns.

This time, however, political questions are expected to stand high atop the phone-in session’s agenda, with the common folk musing on the fate of famous opposition blogger Alexei Navalny, the recent criminal case against whom has divided society.

Some questions, referred to the president, inquire if this legal persecution is an attempt to remove the controversial anti-corruption blogger from the country’s political scene and stop him from running for presidency, while others suggest that Navalny and other opposition leaders should be given a job that would keep them entertained.

Yet other questions fielded on the website inquire into details of the recent big cases involving the country’s high-flyers, such as ex-defense minister Anatoly Serdyukov and the head of the Russian Post, while others ask to reveal recipients of almost four billion dollars paid to a number of Russian NGOs by their foreign NGO sponsors.

The upcoming phone-in will be the eleventh of its kind. Putin is expected to answer questions on a wide range of topics and share his personal assessments. For instance, one of the messages asks the president to give a breakdown on his achievements in office, two weeks before the end of his first presidential year since re-election in 2012.

The Kremlin has been fielding queries since Sunday. Questions can be lodged via phone, SMS or the televised conference that will link Moscow with Russia’s major cities at the time of the call-in. Putin ushered in live Q&A sessions in Russia back in 2001 and has since held them annually.

President Putin to hold televised Q&A on Apr 25

Russia's President Vladimir Putin is holding another televised Q&A session on April 25. People are welcome to submit their questions using hotline starting Sunday, April 21, and until the end of the Q&A. This is going to be Putin's first televised dialogue with citizens since his re-election in March 2012. The Kremlin has started fielding queries from the public for next Thursday’s call-in with President Vladimir Putin. The number for toll-free calls is 8-800-200-40-40.

The first Q&A session with the president was held in Russia in December 2001. The only time this tradition was broken was in 2012 when Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was decided to postpone the event for the warm season.

Anyone can ask Mr. Putin a question using the hotline or SMS service. The Q&A session on April 25 starts at midday Moscow time to be broadcast live on all major TV channels and some radio stations.

"Social majority is Putin's trump card. That is why it is important for him to reach out to people in the Q&A format. In November and December of 2012 Putin’s schedule was packed to capacity, so the decision to postpone the televised Q&A session did not come as a surprise to anyone," says Mikhail Remizov, the head of the National Strategy Institute.

This time Putin's Q&A session will be a bit different, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, without elaborating.

The upcoming phone-in will be the eleventh such show, something that Putin also held during his serving as Russian Prime Minister between 2008 and 2012. The phone-ins typically lasted for about three hours, but the December 2011 call-in show lasted for record 4 hours and 26 minutes and saw Putin field 90 questions. As a rule, Putin deals with moderated questions, but he usually selects online ones all by himself.

The format of a phone-in stipulates a spate of bread-and-butter issues coming to the fore, with most questions related to the social sphere, says Leonid Polyakov of the Higher School of Economics in Moscow.

"Judging by previous phone-ins, this time the questions will center on health care, education, socio-economic issues and those related to housing and public utilities. The President communicating with ordinary people is of great importance because it enables him to better feel a political climate in his country."

In 2007, for example, operators received record 2.3 million phone calls during the call-in show. Taking part in the event are Russians citizens and those from CIS and non-CIS countries. The Kremlin has repeatedly underscored that it is the participants who define the theme of a phone-in. Experts say that during the forthcoming call-in, many questions will be related to fighting against corruption and the authorities’ relations with the opposition.

After a phone-in, the President typically signs an array of decrees and instructs the government to comply with people’s requests.

Importantly, the Russian President is the only leader among those of G-8 countries to use phone-ins for communicating with citizens.

Facts about Q&A sessions with Putin

Vladimir Putin has held ten televised Q&A sessions, four of them while being Russia’s Prime Minister (1999- 2000, 2008-2012).

24 December 2001Putin holds his first live phone-in with Russian people. More than 2 million questions were submitted, and the session lasted about 2.5 hours, an hour longer than planned. Putin answered 46 questions.

19 December 2002During his second Q&A session Mr. Putin received more than 1.4 million calls and 45,500 questions were submitted online. The phone-in lasted 2 hours 37 minutes. Putin managed to answer 51 questions.

18 December 2003The third phone-in attracted more than 1.5 million calls. Putin answered 68 questions within 2 hours 50 minutes. It was then when he announced his decision to seek re-election.

In 2004The traditional phone-in was replaced with a press-conference that took place in the Kremlin.

27 September 2005Over 1 million questions were submitted for the fourth phone-in and not only via phones and online but also using SMS service. Putin answered 60 questions within 2 hours 53 minutes. 14 questions he picked out himself.

25 October 2006The fifth Q&A lasted 2 hours 54 minutes, with more than 2.3 million questions submitted. The president answered more than 50 of them.

18 October 2007Putin received over 2.36 million questions, and answered 72 of them during a 3-hour phone-in.

4 December 2008It was Putin’s first Q&A session at the post of Prime Minister and head of the United Russia party. Titled “A Talk with Vladimir Putin”, the phone-in lasted 3 hours 8 minutes, with 80 questions answered. In all, more than 2 million questions were submitted. 

Records of Q&A sessions with Putin 

The most continuous phone-in took place in 2011 – 4 hours and 33 minutes

The record number of answers was registered in 2011 – 90

The record number of questions was asked in 2009 – more than 2 million phone calls, more than 700,000 SMS messages and over 80,000 e-mails.

4 children talked to the Head of State in 2003.

3 December 2009The eighth phone-in was titled “A Talk with Vladimir Putin. Continued” and lasted 4 hours 2 minutes. Mr. Putin then answered 80 questions out of 2 million that had been submitted. National industry and macroeconomics dominated the talk.

16 December 2010The ninth televised phone-in lasted 4 hours 25 minutes. Out of 2 million questions submitted via phone, Internet and SMS Mr. Putin answered 88.

The tenth and longest Q&A session took place on 15 December, 2011. Then the Russian leader talked to people for 4 hours 33 minutes and answered 90 questions. The broadcast was watched by nearly 40% of the audience. The questions were mostly related to the upcoming presidential elections, law-enforcement reform and some pressing international issues.

Alexei Lyakhov, Andrey Fedyashin

Voice of Russia

  •  
    and share via